CURE Spotlights 2020


August 05, 2020

MERIT Leadership Academy

Similar to the UMB CURE Scholars Program, MERIT Leadership Academy educates and empowers students from underrepresented backgrounds to become health professionals and change agents who advance equity.

In a brand new partnership, two UMB CURE scholars have dually enrolled in both programs to maximize their exposure to STEM and Healthcare professions. CURE’s relationship with MERIT dates back to the origins of the UMB CURE program. MERIT founder, Dr. Tyler Mains, participated in UMB CURE, planning and recruitment, envisioning scholars that would, one day, matriculate to MERIT. With five years of successful programming under its belt, UMB CURE cohort 1 scholars are now in high school and eligible to apply to MERIT.

Standout 11th grade UMB CURE scholars, Courtney Jacobs (shown in the leftmost photo above) and Nicholas Knight (shown in the right photo above), are the first to traverse what program leadership hopes will be a sustained connection between two components of a robust STEM education pipeline in Baltimore. Courtney and Nicholas were inspired to apply to MERIT at the advice of their CURE Mentor, Mr. Julian Walker (shown in both photos above), MS. Julian has been Courtney and Nick’s mentor since they were in the 6th grade. Julian admits that “watching [Courtney and Nicholas] become more accountable as they grow and mature” has been one of his most fulfilling experiences as a mentor.


Q: Courtney and Nicholas, how would you describe your relationship with your mentor Julian?

Courtney: We see him as a big brother, for real. We’ve been together for so long, he’s seen us grow and mature and our connection and bond has gotten so much stronger.  

Nick:  He [Julian] has taught me a lot of things I did not know about, like how to be a gentleman and stuff like that. He’s taught us a lot of things applicable to both in and out of CURE.

Q: How has MERIT helped shaped what you want to do? What have you gotten out of the last couple of months of being in MERIT?

Courtney: Exposure to more options. It’s expanded my horizons.

Nick: MERIT and CURE taught me more about college and the different types of majors available to me.

Q: What do you guys envision for your future?

Courtney: I want to go into Physical Therapy and hopefully one day open up my own practice. But I am still indecisive of my specific plan but I know that’s what I want to do at the end of it all. 

Nick: I want to be an Engineer or to go into Engineering. Not sure what kind yet but yea, that’s what I want to do.

Q: What was the Application Process like/what advice would you give to CURE Scholars who want to also apply to MERIT?

Nick: It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it at the end of the day.

Courtney: Although it’s a lot of work, it is worth the workload in order to expand your horizons and help you build muscle for different situations. Advice wise, students who are interested should keep an open mind about their chances, and if they feel discouraged, they should keep pushing forward and try their very best.


Q: Julian, how’ve you been staying connected with your mentees and how did you help with their transition to MERIT?

Julian: We’ve been texting a lot, a lot of social distancing meetings. Just whatever I can do, or we can make happen to stay connected we do it. We close with them and their families really helped with the transition from the one program to the other. Just by always hanging out with them I was able to introduce them to MERIT and what it stood for and how it was similar to CURE.

Q: What’s been your favorite moment with your mentees?

Julian: I do not have a specific moment, but there are things that I have enjoyed seeing or watching in them as they’ve grown into the amazing young men they are today. I remember when they first started CURE and when they were younger. My favorite thing has been watching them have more accountability for their actions and their lives as they mature.

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